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Feb. 21, 2020 | Friday
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Wallbanger Winnipeg Native Perry Johnson Just Misses Hat Trick in Blue Team Victory
Wallbanger Perry Johnson shows off the two puck he used to score two goals last Sunday morning. (Ross Robinson/Supplied)


The Niagara region is a pleasant place to live, surrounded by water, near two big cities and generally devoid of traffic congestion. One can easily spend an entire day without having to stop at a red light.  Walking and cycling routes are unlimited, and the wineries and craft breweries keep us hydrated.

Recreational activities are plentiful, and perhaps most importantly, interesting citizens keep us intellectually fulfilled as we chat and solve the world’s least pressing problems.  This winter has been a mild one, with nary a freezing cold morning to make us shiver as we go outdoors.

I spoke yesterday with Perry Johnson, a Winnipegger who has a story to tell.  He is a unique export from Winnipeg, much like Winnie-the-Pooh, He grew up on the  Prairies, playing several sports outdoors on the coldest of cold days,  Sometimes the thermometer dipped below -40 F, but even a westerly wind could not keep his group of friends away from the rink. Brett Hull was a neighbour and pal, and Dad Bobby obviously taught the boys how to find open ice and one time the puck.

Only darkness and the streetlights coming on forced the teams off the natural ice, as they headed home for dinner. No Zamboni to scrape and flood the ice surfaces, just snow shovels pushed by young and developing quadriceps muscles.

Johnson is a hard working forward on Blue Team, known as Moore’s Maple Leafs. Lately, his alarm clock has malfunctioned on Sunday mornings, causing him to miss two consecutive games. Happily, last Sunday he arrived just in time for the 7 a.m. game.  He is a tall chap, especially on skates. All  arms and legs, he can dominate his side of the rink.  Who enjoys oldtimers hockey more? His goals are often unorthodox, and always celebrated with enthusiasm and humility. He never wants to show up the goalie.

This rangy winger had two goals in the most recent Wallbanger game, and just missed a hat trick on a breakaway chance late in the third period.  He described the play:  “I  picked up the puck in the neutral zone, after Tim Dool passed it off to me.  One of their defencemen, Marcel Lounsbury I think, had fallen down, so I had some space.  I drove wide and picked up my own rebound.  We had a good net drive, so it was wide open.  Don’t know how I fanned.”

Even though several Wallbangers are north of 60 on the age scale, each and every player is willing to pay the price to win puck battles.  They try to play heavy, so every game is fast and tough.  Of course, fast and tough are relative terms.

Another interesting thing happened before this game.  Enthusiastic rookie J. R. Lewis, who plays both ball hockey and ice hockey, and both goaltender and forward, had forgotten his shin pads. Usually, there are a few mismatched pairs in the Meridian Arena Lost and Found which will serve the purpose. No luck this time.  Determined to play, J. R. found four old copies of the Niagara Advance and five current copies of The Lake Report on a table near the Snack Bar. Remembering what his grandfather told him about life in northern Ontario during The Depression, using Eaton catalogues as shin pads, J. R.  improvised. Using lots of clear tape, he created two pads that offered sufficient protection.

Luckily, he was able to steer clear of any really hard (again, a relative term) shots throughout the game.

Some 23 players showed up last Sunday, causing a fair amount of confusion on the benches.  The usual players who consider themselves to be clever strategists devised line combinations. By the halfway mark of the game, there had been 31 different forward lines.  Two centres, three pairs of wingers. Two lines, and a floater? How about using three defencemen, and three forward lines.  Josh can play up or back.

Man, was I confused.  Even with help, several times I was a second or two late changing on the fly.

Wallbangers hockey.  As the games go on, emotions go up and down like a toilet seat at a mixed party.

Again, no serious injuries,  no penalties, and no referees.